Sunday 21 January 2018

Independent TD Thomas Pringle to seek injunction over ESM treaty

Tim Healy

INDEPENDENT TD Thomas Pringle is to seek an injunction restraining the government completing ratification here early next month of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty providing for a conditional permanent bailout fund for the 17 states in the Eurozone.

Mr Pringle will apply for the injunction once the relevant legislation is passed, as expected, by the Dail and Seanad within the next eight to ten days but before it goes to the President to be signed into law, his counsel John Rogers SC told then High Court today.

After the Oireachtas approves the legislation, a five day period must elapse before the President may sign it into law and Mr Pringle will apply for the injunction then, counsel said. If the President signed the Bills into law, there would be "a new situation" and Mr Pringle was contending the legislation was unconstitutional.

Mr Pringle had hoped the injunctions would not be necessary and the State would undertake not to ratify the Treaty pending the outcome of what his side believed would be a reference of issues to the European Court of Justice for determination, counsel said.

It was clear from issues raised in Mr Pringle's challenge to the ESM Treaty that matters would have to be referred to the ECJ, counsel said.

Michael Cush SC, for the Government and the State, said they envisaged the court would decide the constitutional issue (whether the ESM Treaty breached the Constitution) and that decision on constitutionality did not lend itself to injunctive orders.

An injunction only arose if the court decided to refer issues to the ECJ and the State would be urging the court not to refer, he said. If the court did decide to refer, there would then have to be a debate whether there should be an injunction pending the ECJ's answer.

In those circumstances, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy has adjourned to Tuesday the continuing hearing of Mr Pringle's action in which he contends the ESM Treaty breaches the Irish Constitution, EU law and EU Treaties - the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and the Treaty of the EU (TEU) - on grounds including those treaties do not allow for bailouts.

The ESM Treaty provides for the creation of a new ESM financial institution, akin to a bank, to provide bailout funding on strict conditions to distressed states in the Eurozone. The 17 Eurozone states are required to make a capital contribution to the new institution with Ireland's contribition set at €11.14bn.

In his claim of unconstitutionality, Mr Pringle alleges the ESM Treaty breaches the Irish Constitution on grounds including it dilutes the State's fiscal sovereignty. He claims the ESM Treaty and Fiscal Stability Treaty, approved by a referendum here last month, are interlocked and the ESM Treaty should, and must, be put before the people in a referendum.

In its defence, the Government denies the ESM Treaty is unconstitutional or breaches the EU Treaties and EU law. It also denies the Stability Treaty is dependent on the validity and effect of the ESM Treaty or on the proposed amendment of Article 136 of the TFEU.

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